Friday, 1 November 2013

Mississippi in... October?

From our motel room we headed out and straight into our favourite store, Wal-Mart. Supplies were low and so a brief shop was required. This Wal-Mart was different in its lay out, which felt wrong as every other store we’d passed through had been laid out exactly the same way as those before it. It made our shop slightly longer as we could no longer make B-lines for the necessary groceries but soon enough we had another couple of day’s food and water sorted.
We checked the oil, power steering fluid and water levels before moving on to discuss what exactly we wanted to do as we had drawn blanks on gun ranges and mud-bogging the night before blogging and Facebook took over the evening. As it was Sunday we had hoped that there would be some kind of local events or activities going on, as so far we have discovered America loves its weekends for getting away and taking part in a wide range of pursuits. Unfortunately nothing was happening in Mobile, AL. We had grabbed a few leaflets from the motel and flicked through and decided as the two forts were well over an hour’s drive away that the USS Alabama memorial, battle cruiser and submarine museum was a good shout and at the very least it was something a bit different.
We arrived just before lunch and decided to fill up on sandwiches before wandering through the rather large looking vessels. Once we’d eaten I made a B-line for an old bomber parked at the edge of the car park to get a few pictures.

After, we carried on through to the war memorials for all the men from Mobile lost in the Vietnamese and Korean wars. There is always something tragic and chilling about war memorials as you walk along and read the names. Although it gave me a brief moment to come back down to earth and think about the career I’m looking to go into when I return home. It didn’t take me long to decide it’s very much a path I want to walk down despite the obvious risks.

Once we’d read all the names front and back and still with chills running down my spine with the motto “All gave some, Some gave all” running through my head we wondered on to more war machines dotted around the car park. A nice array of tanks, field guns and the like lined the roadway. Most were looking a little worse for wear as the sea ate away at what the enemy couldn’t damage. Again we pondered at the engineering of the time; these were crafted without the aid of modern technology, making it even more staggering that they could be produced so quickly when they were required.

Finally we were done with the car park and it was finally time to head into the museum, I say museum it’s actually a battle cruiser sat in the Gulf of Mexico. This particular cruiser, the USS Alabama, was part of the large Armada that took on the Empire of Japan in WWII. While apparently it only ever ran a crew of 65 men and 7 officers it was absolutely huge. In 2 or 3 hours we barely got anywhere through the warrens of corridors and stairs below deck. It was an interesting walk to say the least from guns, canons all the way through to clever stow away stools in the canteen. Along the tour route we stumbled across room after room dedicated to those who didn’t make it home, the Alabama alone lost 3 Commanding officers in 3 years of war, along with hundreds of crewmen. Also there were dedications to the men and vessels lost from the supporting fleet. Again it was sobering and chills ran down my spine as I tried to imagine what it was like for them.


 Engineers high-tech lap top

We eventually made it above deck and headed through the officer’s quarters to the control room, or whatever the navy call it. There was not a lot to see as much was still cordoned off for restoration. So we headed down and into the aircraft hangar back on dry land. We wondered the few planes that were dotted about but they all seemed a bit samey and the ropes kept you so far away it was hard to really get up close and personal to see the way they were constructed so we headed almost straight through and to the submarine outside. Again a lot was still being renovated but it was amazing to see how confined it all was. We decided that Chris would most definitely never make it as a submariner, as the door ways and bunks were all much, much too small for him. Although in the torpedo bays there was actually quite a lot of headroom although with a full crew it would have been rather snug.


Once we had wandered enough it was time to get back on the road and make it into another state and another place to crash. We took the I-10 west for a while, the traffic was light and progress was good. We had spotted a few campgrounds on the map which has been a huge help in the past and handed over the co-ordinates to the not so trusty sat-nav once more. We turned off on to the ms-63 which narrowed and became 2 lanes, it wasn’t an issue as the back country is always a more relaxing drive, then we turned again onto what can only be described as rough “roads”.  Unsure of what the navigation was planning for us we trucked on, going against better judgement for a change. 
Soon the road was no longer tarmac or concrete but a blend of red sand and scalping’s. Before long we had lost our bearings and were less sure of our direction of travel than a drunk on a merry-go-round. The map was pulled out but it didn’t show these smaller roads at all. We ploughed on looking for a major highway number on any one of the signs, there were no signs, and so we just kept driving till the light faded behind the tree line. Now with the candle powered lights on our progress slowed to a crawl, we certainly didn’t want another tree incident.

Sometime later we re-emerged on MS-26 and headed for the general location of the campgrounds on the map, the navigation lost the plot and demanded we turned through people’s back yards and up driveways so was quickly shut off and hurled under the seat. We followed the highway in the general direction of the nearest interstate knowing that if we failed to find a campsite we could make a rest stop within an hour or so. Fortunately just over the next hill and round a few corners we stumbled upon a nice big sign with CAMPING ß written upon it. With the goliath squirrelling under breaking and a large thud as everything slid to the right hand side, we were finally headed for a place to stop.
Or so we thought, again the road turned to dust and we ploughed our way looking for any form of sign, again with no luck. To pass the time we joked about the sign and how it had probably been put up by a serial killer. Which was funny until we started passing the odd mobile home with wrecked cars out front, then it was just plain creepy. Finally we met with a sign pointing to Cypress Creek landing. It didn’t state weather or not there would be camping at the end of the trail but we had to find out as it was now well past our bedtime. We were in luck, we had arrived to an eerie uncared for campsite, we checked ourselves in and grabbed a large area with a picnic bench and settled down to cook under… well it was pitch black; so torch light. We hit the hay not long after and while Chris nodded off, I found myself to be uncomfortably warm and so much tossing and turning occurred before I joined him in the land of nod.

I woke up at around 730 shortly followed by Chris, I packed up my things and in a slightly half unconscious state reached for the rear passenger door, which as you may remember has never opened since day one. It didn’t open, but I could feel the mechanical clunk of the latch being released so with a few cautious attempts failing I gave it a bit of abuse, she opened, finally we didn’t have to clamber out over the front seats. After a short celebration we cleaned up had our breaky and I finally thought it was time to get a run in as we were completely alone. Exhausted after a 10 minute sprint I headed back and got into the last of my clean clothes, Chris set up his go-pro and we hit the “road” once more, hoping we’d find our way back out. So stay tuned to find out.